Hi Blog. I have a series of letters here from DMG, writing for The Community, who tells us what he did (relatively successfully) to reduce construction noise in his neighborhood, which was affecting both his work and rest. If you have a similar situation of neighborhood meiwaku, take it to the authorities, talk to the neighbors, and open a dialog with the meiwaku-ers, is the lesson. In his case, it seems to have worked. Good for him. Passing this on as practical advice, Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Date: June 20, 2009 11:49:30 AM JST
Community, got a question:
Currently, right beside my apartment, they are building a new community centre. By “right beside”, I could not mean that more literally. In fact, as I write this, they are working on a wall, for which the foundations go underneath my building.
I live in a small building, it is only two floors with two apartments. My door opens in the direction facing the construction site. I am practically living in the middle of this construction.
They have been constructing since February, first demolishing the old building. Currently they are building the foundations that go into the ground. They will continue to construct until the end of next year.
When I was first given a schedule, I knew there would be noise. I have lived near constructions before. But never this close, and to one of this scale.
I tried to just suck it up, but as months go on, it becomes increasingly difficult. Part of the problem is that I do computer related work by contract, which I do at home. So this isn’t just a matter of me not getting sleep on Saturday mornings (they work 6 days a week), this is me not being able to work.
Let me impress upon you that this is not just some knocking and buzzing of hammers and drills. That is what I had erroneously imagined. The noise of their back hoes and 3 story tall drills reaches deafening proportions and vibrates my whole apartment. Work, sleep, or anything involving thought is impossible for much of the week.
I spoke to the manager of the construction site, and, as much as he tried to promise to be considerate of my presence, there really isn’t anything that can be done. The construction will continue, they have tasks that need doing, and I can’t afford to simply pick up and move.
I spoke to some Japanese friends, and they said that they have heard about situations like this before, and in the situations they cited, immediate neighbours were given compensation for the inconvenience.
For some reason, I feel somewhat emotionally resistant to asking for compensation. It feels like I am trying to scam them for easy money or something.
But, on the other hand, it has reached a point where I am at wits end, and if nothing can be done to actually limit the noise, I can’t help but feel it is fair to get some kind of recompense for this massive intrusion into my life.
So, that is my story. The question I am coming to the group is if anyone has similar experience, or in any way can offer points on how I might negotiate the matter.
It is Shibuya Ku’s community centre, so I imagine the city is footing the bill. I don’t know if they have paid out to a company to handle all matters, or what. But I will ask around and ultimately find who is responsible.
Also, financial compensation is not the only option that would satisfy me. If they were to move me, I suppose, that might also work. I’m not really sure, but anyway, the point is that I’m not hell bent on getting money. If something tangible can be done to actually stop me from going insane from this noise, that would be good. The compensation merely represents the only realistic option given the fixed issues.
Any advice or help would be much appreciated.
Date: July 13, 2009 5:00:34 PM JST
I would laugh were it not for the knowledge of how much my life is going to suck for the next little while.
Today I finally got a chance to go down to the kuyakusho and talk to the person in charge of the construction happening beside my place. No promises were made, but there was talk about at least trying to rectify the problem. One possibility was putting a wall on one side of my apartment that would help cut down noise.
I came home feeling good about having at least started a dialogue. What, if anything, can be done remains to be seen, but at least I’ve got a channel of communication going.
And then, literally right as I arrived home, there was a guy on my doorstep placing something in my mailbox. It was a notice informing me that there will be *another* construction right beside me. There is another empty lot adjacent to where I am, and they will begin laying foundations at the end of this month. I talked to the guy a bit, and he was saying he was sorry for the noise that will happen, but I told him that being sorry for the noise is not good enough. Neither is the giri-gift-towel he wanted to give me.
I did find out something interesting though. The person I spoke to at the city office mentioned that there have been complaints from other neighbours, and she even told me which buildings they were in.
This new construction has raised the stakes a bit, but now I know I also have potential allies. I also have some real estate lawyers I’ve worked with before. So I think I’m going to talk to my neighbours a bit and see if we can’t do something about this.
Date: July 31, 2009 2:35:43 PM JST
Just as an education in what happens when you negotiate with Japanese bureaucracies…
I’ve spoken to both the people building the community centre on one side, and the people building the apartment building on the other.
Both were very nice and not at all what I expected. I had expected somewhat gruff older men. The community centre person was a very professional woman about my age, and the apartment building representative was a young guy, about college age, in jeans and kind of hapless.
The city hall built sound proofing around my front entranceway. Of course, it doesn’t stop the noise, but, surprisingly, it helps cut out certain noises. Maybe more importantly, as the building rises, the construction workers are no longer looking directly into my front door.
The apartment building people agreed to constrain their working hours to be the same as the other construction, so at least I’m not facing any more hours of noise. And they also agreed to not have larger trucks pass in front of my building any earlier than 9 AM.
It makes a huge psychological difference to have spoken to someone, had my concerns heard, and at least some effort made to resolve the problem. In reality, the sound proofing is more of a gesture than a difference, but the gesture goes a long way.
In both cases I thanked them for their understanding, but also said we’ll see how it goes, to keep my options open.
The main lesson is one I learn over and over again. Dialogue helps. Assuming they would do nothing and be confrontational kept me at bay for too long. I should have spoken up earlier.